Opal Singleton knows the dangers of trafficking of young people both in the United States and in third-world countries. And the recruitment methods are not that dissimilar, regardless of first- or third-world location. “A lot of recruitment has to do with gangs,” said Singleton, noting that the ubiquity of smart phones and the Internet makes recruitment far easier.
Singleton is a board member and director of development for Rapha House, an organization that provides rescue and healing programs for victims of child sex trafficking in Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Haiti. She is also president and CEO of the U.S. organization Million Kids. MillionKids.org serves as the training outreach coordinator for the Riverside County Sheriff’s anti-human trafficking task force. “It’s called Million Kids because over one million kids are trafficked each year,” she said.
Singleton will discuss this rapidly growing crime and its inroads in Riverside County at a presentation for the Soroptimist International of Idyllwild at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 17, at the Rainbow Inn. She calls her talk and trademarked program, “The Love Trap.” The discussion is free to the public and light refreshments will be provided.
“It’s easy money and the need to be loved and included,” said Singleton, explaining the attraction for minors and young adults. “It’s the fastest-growing crime in the United States, and California is number one among the states for trafficking growth. Seventy-two percent of victims are U.S. citizens and a significant percentage of those are minors and young adults 21 to 24.”
Singleton noted that in San Diego County, according to a report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, gangs are now making more money from sex trafficking than from drug sales. “Anybody can be recruited,” she noted. “Very seldom is someone kidnapped. It’s the lure of easy money and affection, the need to be loved.” She said recruitment can happen by Internet or through a friend, boy or girl. It can happen in public schools and in malls. “Sixty percent of the time it’s a girl or boy friend that uses a relationship in a deceptive way to ensnare the child. This has more to do with how vulnerable our kids are. Most of the time love lures them in.”
She noted the most vulnerable populations for trafficking recruitment are foster kids, runaways, homeless and pregnant young people. “Prevention is the key to keeping our families and young people safe,” said Singleton. “At the heart of prevention is education and understanding the dynamics of how human trafficking ensnares innocent people.”
Although Singleton will concentrate primarily on trafficking of youth, she will also address the growth in labor trafficking and California Law SB 657, Transparency in the Supply Chain Act, which requires retail sellers and manufacturers doing business in California to disclose their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their direct supply chains for tangible goods offered for sale. The law exempts retail sellers or manufacturers having less than $100,000,000 in annual worldwide gross receipts.
Singleton said her mission is to educate and make adults aware of how easily disaffected children can become involved in child prostitution, and, once in, how difficult it is to break free.
For more information, Singleton can be reached at www.millionkids.org and at [email protected].